Rhythm Planet’s Rainforest Playlist

Written by

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT/cifor.org (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Over the past weeks, the world has watched the fiery destruction being wrought on the Amazon rainforest, aka the “lungs of the world.” Rainforests trap carbon, create oxygen, and thus protect the entire planet by counteracting global warming. The ongoing coverage prompted me to revisit a beautiful album about the rainforest by Brazilian composer Mario Adnet called Amazonia: On the Forest Trail. The richly arranged and orchestrated music celebrates the Amazon’s beauty and magnificence. The album features top Brazilian musicians such as Mônica Salmaso, Roberta SáLenine, and Flora Purim. It inspired me to put together this rainforest playlist and we'll hear several tracks from Adnet’s wonderful album.

Other songs on the playlist celebrate the flora and fauna of the Brazilian rainforest, including tracks by Antônio Carlos Jobim, Dori Caymmi, and Heitor Villa-Lobos, from his classic and final major composition Floresta do Amazonas (Forest of the Amazon). Jobim’s “Passarim” (from a 1987 album) is particularly poignant. The song refers to a small bird watching deforestation from above, and the lyrics express pain and anguish about the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest. Jobim reportedly once said, “I was a beach boy (in Rio), and I believe I learned my songs from the birds of the Brazilian forest.” 

Another song on the playlist comes from the Kayapó Xikrin people, native Amazonians who are now under threat from habitat destruction of their ancestral homeland. People of the forest can recognize hundreds of native plants and their medicinal and ritual uses, plants and flora that could yield cures for cancer and other diseases someday. Just a few years ago, 25% of cancer fighting organisms could be found there. (Source: washentree.com)

I had hoped to include two other songs, but they were not available on Spotify. The first is Douglas Quin’s remarkable field recording of a green oropendola bird in the Amazon rainforest from his CD Oropendola: Music by and From Birds. Pick up the CD for the simply remarkable bird song. The second is Brazilian singer Zizi Possi’s version of the love song “Melodia Sentimental,” written by Villa-Lobos for Floresta do Amazonas. It’s on her album Mais Simples (Simpler). Luckily, I did find this track on Youtube:

Sadly, the destruction in the Amazon is nothing new. Tropical rainforest has been clear-cut, slashed, and burned for a long time. The effort to preserve the Brazilian rainforest reminds me of Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper who believed in sustainable use of forest resources—rubber—so as to preserve it. He was murdered by a rancher in the late 1980’s. It seems to have all gotten worse since then, with Brazilian rainforest being cut down for production of soybeans and cattle. Once the massive trees are gone, the soybeans harvested, and the cattle fattened, the thin soil in Brazil’s rainforest becomes barren and useless. It’s rape-and-pillage with no thought of the future of our precious planet.

KCRW has been taking part in a worldwide collaboration among hundreds of news outlets called "covering climate now." See all the coverage and share your own climate story using the hashtag #CoveringClimateNow.

Brazil’s biodiversity is unmatched: 56,000 species of plants, 1,700 species of birds, 695 amphibians, 578 mammals, and 651 reptiles. So let’s close this week’s post with some Brazilian rainforest ambient music: